Tramadol, a drug commonly sold under the brand name Ultram, is a prescription opioid prescribed to ease major acute or chronic pain. Opioids like tramadol are some of the most common medications prescribed in the United States, despite their high potential for abuse and addiction.
Tramadol abuse refers to taking the drug in any way other than prescribed and can include:
- taking higher doses than directed
- taking the drug more frequently
- continuing to take the drug for longer than necessary
- taking it to get high
- mixing it with alcohol or other drugs
People who take prescription medications are urged to contact their doctor if they find out they are pregnant. This is because several prescription drugs, including tramadol, can have adverse effects on fetal development, risk miscarriage, and endanger the pregnant mother.
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It is important, however, not to stop taking the drug all at once. Taking tramadol can cause dependence in the body, leading to withdrawal symptoms with reduced or stopped use. If you are dependent on tramadol, stopping all at once can pose serious health risks to both you and your baby.
If you are abusing tramadol and become pregnant, you are not alone. However, it is in the best interest of both yourself and your baby to seek professional treatment immediately to help you stop taking the drug.
What Are The Risks Of Taking Tramadol While Pregnant?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other national organizations have reported several pregnancy risks that are higher for people who take tramadol while pregnant.
Tramadol isn’t the only medication that can be unsafe to take during pregnancy. However, as a drug that is still prescribed to many pregnant people, its risks have received special attention and research funding.
According to one study from 2014, as many as 21.9 percent of pregnant people from 47 states reported taking a prescription opioid at some point during their pregnancies. In some states, this percentage is as high as 41 percent.
Health risks of taking tramadol while pregnant include:
- birth defects
- neonatal abstinence syndrome (when a baby experiences drug withdrawal symptoms following birth)
- congenital heart defects
- premature birth
- miscarriage or stillbirth
- low birth weight
Taking tramadol during any stage of pregnancy is not without risk, and can occur even when taken in moderate doses. Abusing Ultram by taking higher doses, taking it for reasons other than prescribed, or taking it more often further increases the risk of experiencing these effects.
Can Babies Be Born Addicted To Tramadol?
Yes. Tramadol can cross over into the placenta, exposing a developing fetus to traces of the drug. How much of the drug the fetus is exposed to can vary depending on how much is taken by the mother.
Each year, thousands of babies in the United States are born addicted to opioids, resulting in a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) refers to withdrawal symptoms experienced by newborns exposed to drugs during pregnancy. These symptoms typically appear within a week of being born.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms in infants can vary. Some symptoms, such as excessive crying and irritability may even seem normal and be initially overlooked. Symptoms that persist, however, can indicate a more serious problem, especially when accompanied by other concerning symptoms.
Symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome (withdrawal) can include:
- high-pitched crying
- excessive sweating
- shaking and tremors
- poor feeding or sucking
Symptoms of NAS are temporary, but may require close monitoring and medical treatment depending on their severity.
Effects Of Tramadol Abuse On People Who Are Pregnant
Tramadol abuse is not just dangerous for a developing baby, but for maternal health as well. Pregnancy can be a challenging time, fraught with bodily pains, aches, hormonal changes, and rapid mood swings. Having a drug or alcohol problem can make these symptoms even worse.
Over time, tramadol abuse can have physical, mental, and psychological effects that can add to the challenges of pregnancy. Opioid abuse can create significant stress in a person’s life, putting them at higher risk for spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) at any point during pregnancy, and stillbirth.
People who abuse tramadol often suffer from conditions such as malnourishment, which can endanger maternal health and fetal development. Taking care of one’s physical and mental health during pregnancy is essential to delivering a healthy baby and preparing to take care of a new child.
Additional effects of opioid abuse on a pregnant mother can include:
- excessive sedation
- difficulty sleeping
- aching muscles
Having higher stress levels, which is common during pregnancy, can also make a person more vulnerable to abusing drugs more frequently or in higher doses. This can put a person at higher risk for overdose, risking serious and potentially-fatal consequences.
Although someone who is pregnant may be concerned about their drug abuse, having concerns is not always enough to be able to stop. Addiction is a powerful disease that can make the idea of quitting a drug feel unattainable, out of reach, and hopeless.
How To Stop Using Tramadol While Pregnant
The first step to overcome tramadol abuse is to contact your doctor. Although talking about a drug problem can be difficult, reaching out to a doctor is the best way to find out what type of support and treatment you will need to help you recover.
The type of treatment recommended by your doctor may depend on several factors, such as:
- how long you have been taking tramadol
- whether you have been taking it as prescribed
- whether you are dependent on or addicted to tramadol
- severity of dependence
If you have been taking tramadol as prescribed to treat acute or chronic pain, your doctor will likely create a tapering schedule for you to safely reduce your dosage until you are no longer taking the drug.
If you are addicted to tramadol, a more intensive treatment program is likely to be recommended. The most supportive setting to receive intensive treatment for opioid abuse is an inpatient treatment program, which can offer 24-hour supervision and support for people recovering from drug abuse.
Effective treatments offered within inpatient programs for opioid addiction may include:
Medical detox services: Medical detox services provide a safe and supervised setting for patients to undergo opioid detox and withdrawal. Under the supervision of medical professionals, patients may be treated with medicines to ease withdrawal symptoms and be monitored for other health concerns.
Medication-assisted therapy: Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) is currently the most effective treatment for overcoming opioid abuse and dependence. This type of treatment combines the use of medicine and behavioral counseling to reduce drug cravings, teach helpful life skills, and provider effective coping strategies.
Opioid Treatment Programs At Vertava Health For Pregnant Patients
Treatment programs at Vertava Health offer specialized services for pregnant patients in addition to our typical array of high-quality treatments. This includes prenatal care and counseling that is mindful of the unique difficulties pregnant people face.
If you are struggling with tramadol abuse and are concerned about its effects on your pregnancy, contact our treatment specialists today. We’ll find you or your pregnant loved one a treatment program that best suits your needs.